A distributed dynamic brain network mediates linguistic tone representation and categorization

Gangyi Feng*, Zhenzhong Gan, Fernando Llanos, Danting Meng, Suiping Wang, Patrick C.M. Wong, Bharath Chandrasekaran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Successful categorization requires listeners to represent the incoming sensory information, resolve the “blooming, buzzing confusion” inherent to noisy sensory signals, and leverage the accumulated evidence towards making a decision. Despite decades of intense debate, the neural systems underlying speech categorization remain unresolved. Here we assessed the neural representation and categorization of lexical tones by native Mandarin speakers (N = 31) across a range of acoustic and contextual variabilities (talkers, perceptual saliences, and stimulus-contexts) using functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) and an evidence accumulation model of decision-making. Univariate activation and multivariate pattern analyses reveal that the acoustic-variability-tolerant representations of tone category are observed within the middle portion of the left superior temporal gyrus (STG). Activation patterns in the frontal and parietal regions also contained category-relevant information that was differentially sensitive to various forms of variability. The robustness of neural representations of tone category in a distributed fronto-temporoparietal network is associated with trial-by-trial decision-making parameters. These findings support a hybrid model involving a representational core within the STG that operates dynamically within an extensive frontoparietal network to support the representation and categorization of linguistic pitch patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117410
JournalNeuroimage
Volume224
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Keywords

  • Categorization decision
  • Lexical tones
  • Neural decoding
  • Neural representation
  • Perceptual constancy
  • Speech categorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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